Shelby Miller Makes MLB Debut Out of the Bullpen
Over 78 appearances in professional baseball since he was a first round pick out of high school in 2009, 21-year-old Shelby Miller had never pitched out of the bullpen. His debut as a reliever coincided with his Major League debut on Wednesday.
The power right-hander, who is projected as a future frontline starter, tossed two scoreless innings against the New York Mets, allowing one hit and striking out four. Miller did not issue a walk, and 21 of his 29 pitches were strikes.
Called by multiple St. Louis media outlets as the team’s most anticipated pitching prospect since Rick Ankiel, Miller was summoned from Triple-A Memphis. Miller and fellow relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Lance Lynn are considered starters long term, but for the September stretch run, they are valuable pieces out of the pen. The Cardinals are 74-63 and currently have the second National League wild card spot.
After winning Cardinals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons, Miller appeared to take a step back this year in his first taste of Triple-A.
Before the All-Star break, he was 4-8 with a 6.17 ERA and a .291 batting average against in 17 starts. Then he embraced changes to his mechanics and exhibited greater willingness to feature off-speed pitches, and the results were more favorable in the second half, when he was 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a .217 opponent’s batting average in 10 outings.
ESPN analyst Keith Law provided this assessment of the two-time Futures Game selection:
I view Miller as a potential ace long-term with the chance for two plus pitches, but he’s got two major areas for improvement. One is the change-up, largely a show-me pitch right now as he prefers to try to throw his breaking ball to lefties in off-speed counts. The other, tied to the first, is his propensity for giving up home runs, something that was less of a problem in the second half but remains a concern. Lefties particularly got to him in Triple-A and a better weapon against them, whether it’s the change-up or (perish the thought!) adding a cutter, will be necessarily for him to fulfill his potential. Regardless, I think it’s likely he makes 20-plus starts for the Cardinals in 2013.
As for the remainder of this season, the current No. 2 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB.com and the eighth-best prospect in the game in Baseball America’s pre-season rankings could earn a start in September, Cardinals officials said. Miller could also get a more prominent role in the bullpen.